Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Being Family: Life Lessons To Learn From Kids by Lovette Singleton

Don’t pick them up too often; you have to teach them independence. Make them eat what’s available; otherwise you make them picky eaters. 

Don’t give them all they ask for, they have to learn that life doesn’t give us all we want. Maybe not in the same order, but in the same context, we’ve heard these words at one time or another. Especially as a new parent, neighbors, friends and family, always seem to have the perfect piece of advice on how to teach our kids the right lessons.

And then we add the basics. Don’t pick your nose. Don’t tell lies. Don’t hit others. Treat others with kindness. Say sorry when you hurt someone… But, in the end, Children are the most honest teachers around. Adults often teach and preach lessons they may not care to practice. Children on the other hand? Embedded in their daily activities and behavior, are life’s precious lessons.

Somewhere along the line, adults leave their childhood with all its simplicity behind and this is where life starts looking complicatedIf I was your neighbor, friend or family, my advice would be: when you’re around children, curb your teaching enthusiasm, assume the thought process of a student and pay attention. Oh, the lessons you’ll learn!

When I find myself wanting to watch Survivor at the same time my husband wants to watch the Wizards vs Clippers game, I remind myself of how many times my 5 year old son has sat through the movie The Croods with his 7 year old sister, just so they could watch Ninja Turtles, together afterwardsOr the many times he’s had to put on one of his sister’s “itchy wigs” and sit in her ‘class’ wearing an Elsa costume, being taught how to sing all the songs in the movie Frozen. Then momentlater, they are outside batting balls. I don’t remember particularly teaching them a lesson about compromise and accommodating others. But, their pure minds know that in order to enjoy each other’s company, they need to share in each other’s interests.

With the same attitude, they settle their disagreements. I’m still learning to stop trying to be the middle-woman, because they honestly don’t need one. While my daughter is still crying about her brother kicking the ball in her face, I get in there to straighten things out, and before I’m done talking, she jumps in there, grabs his hand and they run off to see the moth she just found in the yard. And I am left standing, wondering where her anger and resentment went. It should simmer for some hours at least. Then when he says he’s sorry, she can ignore him for a while, and when she starts to miss his company, she can slowly warm up again. Then I realize that that is what I would do. But what I would rather do is what they just did. Why waste precious time being resentful, when we could just flip the page and continue enjoying life’s beautiful moments?

With kids, there are also many fearless moments. This might be as a result of their superhero imaginations. In their imaginations, they’re always the stars. They always get it right. They fly when others are walking and run faster than cheetahs. In real life, this translates to confidence, and confidence is 50% of the success recipe

When we ordered roller blades to start skating as a family, we were super-excited. Before they arrived, the kids talked about racing up and down the streets, but their dad and I talked about how we needed to be careful not to break any bones. The roller blades arrived, by the next day, both kids were skating and falling, and two days after, they were racing up and down the streets. My husband and I, on the other hand, are still imagining the number of bones we could break, if we fell. Hopefully, one day soon, we’ll all be racing up and down the streets.

Last Christmas morning, we pulled a prank on the kids, just to see their reaction. We told them that this Christmas was very different and they did not get the gifts on their wish-list. In fact, we had just been downstairs and there was only one gift under the tree. Their faces fell, and they thought we were joking. Once we were able to convince them, my daughter fell on her bed and started crying. Then with the sweetest voice ever, her brother said “It’s okay, Zarah, if the gift downstairs is mine, I’ll give it to you”. It made me want to cry and laugh at the same time. The compassion and selflessness, was a perfect lesson learned from my 5 year old, on a Christmas morning. We also found his optimism adorable: if there was only one gift under the tree, it was his.  When they finally made it down the stairs, it was a pleasant surprise and I had learned yet another lesson.

Just like kids, adults need to learn to live in the moment, too. They take each day as it comes. Time, for them, is now. Today. They move on quickly from the events of yesterday and take the events of the day as they unfold. There’s no time for procrastinating, so they keep at it, until they get it right. 

When my daughter was 3, she saw me hula-hooping and was bent on learning to hoop with my 2.5lbs hoop. Well, the little fighter kept trying and every time it fell, she'll pick it up and try again, despite my many attempts to make her take a break, until she was black and blue around her little waist. In the end, she got it right and even started getting fancy with it, once her soreness was gone. Some days on and she was ready to move on to acquiring a new skill. How many times have adults given up on ideas, because they tried one time and failed.

Living in the moment also means that kids don’t worry about tomorrow. They don’t plan for anything, because they take things as they happen. While this may not be an idea worth emulating, as adults, we have to admit that worrying about tomorrow doesn’t make it better. Neither do our plans always unfold as planned. Ultimately, some circumstances are beyond our control, and the less we worry, the more beautiful life is.

We stopped appreciating the beauty and simplicity of life as we grew up. Somewhere along way, unfavorable events may have left us feeling betrayed, causing us to become fearful and selfish. Cautious and monotonous.  But kids face disappointments, too. In their own way, they may experience heartbreak, but their ability to move on and see the light in every situation is remarkable. And, as adults, remembering how to be a child again can be one way to a better life.

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